Thursday, November 26, 2009

Arroyo Administration’s Policy of Extra-judicial Killings, Patronage Politics Paved the Way for Maguindanao massacre

Pagbabago! People's Movement for Change
PRESS STATEMENT / 26 November 2009
Reference: Ms Bibeth Orteza (Pagbabago! spokesperson) Mobile 0917.7913132

The Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change joins the nation in denouncing in the strongest possible terms the brutal massacre in the province of Maguindanao. We denounce even further the apparent lack of swift action and serious effort on the part of Malacañang and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to go after the perpetrators of the worst election-related violence in the country’s history.

We demand justice for the victims and their families and this means not only arresting those directly responsible for the mass slaughter of unarmed civilians. For us, justice entails making liable all those responsible for creating the climate of impunity that has allowed the gross violation of human rights to persist and for local warlords like the Ampatuan clan to do as they please without fear of retribution from the law. For this, we hold the Arroyo administration accountable as well for the gruesome killing of at least 52 people including women, journalists, and lawyers in Maguindanao.

The Arroyo administration is the biggest warlord in this country, employing the AFP and the PNP as its own private army. Its policy and practice of extra-judicial killings and political repression of perceived enemies using the State’s security forces, machinery, and resources and then covering them up has obviously emboldened the Ampatuans to kill at whim their own political foes in Maguindanao as they had against relatives and supporters of the rival Mangudadatus, the lawyers and media people with them, and even motorists who happened to tail the convoy.

For a long time, the Arroyo administration has lavished the Ampatuans with favors such as allowing it to maintain a huge private army, including AFP-led CAFGUs which the warlord clan used to expand and further entrench its political dynasty in the region. We note that it was Arroyo’s Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that initiated in 2006 the arming of so-called civilian volunteers in Mindanao purportedly for protection against Moro separatist rebels. This was used to legitimize the private armies of favored warlords such as the Ampatuans. These are the same armed civilian volunteers, reportedly with local police officers and armymen, who carried out the Maguindanao massacre. According to the Mangundadatos, the PNP had turned down their request for police escort in going to the COMELEC offices on that day.

This is the same private army that the Ampatuans used to terrorize the people during national elections and assure victory in the province for the Arroyo administration.

It is not a secret that the Arroyo administration owes a big political debt to the Ampatuans. This clan ensured Mrs. Arroyo wouldl get the margin she asked for against rival Fernando Poe Jr. in the fraudulent 2004 presidential elections. This clan also delivered an unbelievable 12-0 victory for the administration’s Team Unity senatorial ticket in the 2007 polls. Undoubtedly, the administration will once again utilize to the hilt the Ampatuans to give its presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro the boost he badly needs in next year’s presidential elections.

No amount of distancing and hand washing can absolve the Arroyo administration from culpability for allowing the Maguindano massacre to happen. We are further enraged that the immediate response of Malacañang has been minisculecompared to what the incensed public demands and what justice dictates, which is for the state security forces to immediately take custody of the Ampatuan family member directly implicated in the massacre for questioning, disarm the Ampatuan private army, and relieve from their posts all AFP and PNP officials responsible for securing peace and order in the area. The declaration of a state of emergency in the province does not address the basic problem that until now, despite positive identification of who the killers are, not a single arrest or even questioning by the police has been made. What we have seen so far despite strong words of condemnation not only in the Philippines but from the international community as well is a government handling with kid gloves a reliable political ally.

We call on all Filipino people who value life, justice, democracy, and accountability of public officials to pressure the Arroyo administration to act swiftly and bring justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre and their families. We call on the people to once and for all end the climate of impunity for human rights violators and mass murderers that has pervaded in the country under the Arroyo administration. #

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